We’re not even finished with the 2020 election, but a longtime GOP operative is already openly musing on social media about challenging Sen. Mike Lee if he runs for reelection in 2022.
On Thursday evening, Steve Schmidt, one of the founders of The Lincoln Project and a resident of Park City, replied to a comment urging him to run against Lee, who has been a strong supporter of President Donald Trump.
“Thinking about it,” Schmidt said. "Would be a fun race. Hard to win. I wouldn’t go into it to win so much as I would be to strip his sanctimony, BS and hypocricy bear (sic).
“Old Utah vs. New Utah," he added. “Would be fun.”
Schmidt, a longtime Republican who renounced his party membership in 2018, was a top aide on Sen. John McCain’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid, pushing McCain to select then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Schmidt also worked on the campaigns of President George W. Bush and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Schmidt did not respond to requests for comment.
A Lee campaign spokesperson replied “LOL” to an email about Schmidt’s possible campaign.
Schmidt thinking about challenging Lee is certainly intriguing. Given his national connections, he would likely be able to raise enough campaign cash to make the race interesting.
Lee has not faced much in the way of competition during his two previous elections. He raised $1.7 million for his initial bid for Senate in 2010, but that included a GOP primary race against Tim Bridgewater after Sen. Bob Bennett was ousted at the Republican convention that year. His Democratic opponent, Sam Granato, raised just $291,000. In 2016, Lee faced Democrat Misty Snow. Lee banked $5.8 million in donations to Snow’s $78,000, a 76-1 cash disparity.
Lee’s support for Trump likely drew the ire of Schmidt. This year Lee went all in for the president, going so far as to compare him to Captain Moroni, a hero from the Book of Mormon, during a pre-election rally in Arizona. That’s an about-face from 2016 when Lee attempted to broker a Ted Cruz-Marco Rubio “unity ticket” to prevent Trump from winning the GOP nomination that year.